At this time last year I was visiting London, and the anglophile in me is longing to be back in London Town. As a follower of the royal family and all things British, one of the must-visit places on my itinerary was Kensington Palace. The palace has been home to many famous kings and queens over the years, and has its place in English history. At the time of my visit the historical compound, built in 1605, had just finished a massive refurbishment and was reopened to the public. It was a horribly rainy London day, so planning to spend an afternoon indoors worked out well.
As we walked towards the entrance, excitement rose as the famous main gates came into view. Once inside, we were greeted in a central area, then sent along our course through the exhibits and wings. The inside seems to have received a modern update, with new photos and trendy art installations. The first stop was a central corridor containing portraits and photographs. I instantly recognized framed shots taken by Mario Testino, specifically one from William and Kate’s engagement shoot, plus a well-known photograph of Diana from 1997.
We then ascended the King’s Staircase and walked past its lively mural of George I’s court. The staircase leads you to the King’s State Apartments. Here we were able to walk through numerous rooms and chambers, all filled with art and ornate details. You’re then taken through the Cupola Room and the King’s Drawing Room. It’s amazing to think that past monarchs and world leaders once gathered in these corridors. Keep an eye out for intricate carvings near the fireplace and the beautiful tapestries that line the walls. Don’t miss the King’s Gallery, which houses the Royal Collection. The dial over the fireplace was used to tell which way the wind was blowing, and it stills works! I was told the room hasn’t changed much since it was completed in 1727.
The next permanent exhibit, Victoria Revealed, follows her life from birth to death, all in the home where she was born and raised. Visitors can see mementos from her childhood, including photos, clothing and toys. Various quotes tell the story of her life in her own words. It was interesting to hear about what was dubbed “the Kensington system” – the rigid set of rules that Victoria endured until she became queen. Her love story with Albert is also explored, and her wedding dress is even on display. Did you know that she lived out the last 40 years of her life in the isolation of the palace after being widowed?
The next stop would have been to explore the palace gardens, but we decided against it, given the rainy weather. I can only image how beautiful the sunken garden and surrounding area would look in full bloom on a summer day. After the tour, we stopped at the the Orangery for afternoon tea. A serene view overlooking the gardens and a mix of tea, scones and pastries was the perfect end to our visit.
Touring the palace is a great way to spend the afternoon, and it’s a must-do for any history buff visiting London. I’d recommend at least two hours for the complete tour. More information, plus a link to purchase tickets online, can be found on the Kensington Palace website.